Best known to Dreamcast fans for their work on the Sega Sports 2k
series, Visual Concepts has apparently traded in their motion capture
studios for a patch of Polynesian islands, and a life-time supply of
Shrunken Heads! Bizarre indeed, but was it a fair trade? Read on...
And this is, of course, where you step in. Ooga Booga is a fast-paced
multi-player action game, set on a group of small, island arenas. 1-4
players can join in simultaneously, or go online to battle against wannabe
witch doctors across the nation. The game centers around its rapid-fire
pacing, variety of weapons, and wacky tribal theme. So does it deliver the
goods? Or is it a few coconuts short of a Flaming-McStooga? (Alright, so I
just made that up). Let's break it down.
The story is nothing to boast about, but with a game like this we all know
what's important: Fast, insane, multi-player mayhem. And in that respect,
Ooga Booga delivers quite nicely.
Players choose from 4 selectable characters (or "Kahunas"), one
representing each of the island tribes. They offer the standard varieties
of speed and power; The Twitchy tribe, for example, is fast but frail. The
Fatty tribe is slow and brawny. Hoodoo's tribe is quick and crafty, and
Hottie's tribe is the all-around average. Once you've identified a tribal
soul-mate, it's time to jump in to battle! The gameplay itself is very
simple, and based around 3 different events:
Smakahuna - Chase your enemies around the island, and lay the smack
down! Each time you land a hit, you'll be rewarded points depending on the
type of attack used. At the end of each round, the player with the highest
number of points wins. Simple!
Apart from your basic "smacking" ability, Shrunken Heads can be found
lying around the islands (they actually fall from the trees!). These are
collected and tossed at enemy Kahunas, grenade-style. However, the bulk
of your attacks come from Spell Tokens -- small spinning discs scattered
throughout the levels, that equip your character with different striking
abilities. Lightning, Fireballs, and Homing Heads all serve as projectile
weapons, while Mines are dropped to await unlucky passers-by. There are
also large-scale weapons such as Lighting Cloud, Meteor and Tornado which
can not be controlled once launched. Your best bet in this case is simply to
let em fly, then dive for cover!
Creatures also inhabit the islands of Ooga Booga. More specifically, two
animals --Boars and Birds-- who are willing to help you earn a few points
...after a little "persuasion", that is (aka: smack 'em on the noggin'). Once
stunned, Boars can be ridden around and are great for mowing down
Kahunas in your path. Birds will carry you high above the island, allowing an
aerial assault on your enemies below. Both animals work on a time limit,
kicking you off once they've expired. Take note however, while riding you
are also still vulnerable to attacks -- a well aimed Shrunken Head will bring
your joyride to an abrupt and painful halt.
Additionally, some islands are peppered with Tikis - magical wooden
carvings that initially appear in a sleeping state. By giving them a set
amount of Shrunken Heads, they will awaken and become "claimed" by
your team. Should an enemy Kahuna or Tiki be nearby, your Tiki will attack
Smakahuna is fast, frantic, and quite fun. It's a blast going head-to-head
against your buddies... And there is a strange satisfaction from chasing
down enemies atop the back of a wild boar. Or maybe that's just me.
Boar Polo - This is the second event available, and arguably the most
interesting. In this event, two teams play a simplified game of (you
guessed it) polo -- smacking, attacking, and charging a giant boulder
towards their enemies' goal, hoping to score. Most of the weapons are
carried over from the Smakahuna mode, and can be used to either stop
your enemies from scoring, or help move the ball for your own team. As
the event's namesake suggests, the Boar is indeed your attack of choice.
Smashing into the boulder while atop your snout-nosed companion will
push it further than any Kahuna could hope to on their own.
This mode is interesting because you have a specific goal in mind, but are
still free to attack other players. There is definitely more strategy
involved; trying to score while avoiding attacks takes a fair bit of
Rodeo is the final mode of play, which focuses solely on your boar-riding
skills. In this event, points are scored only by hitting an opponent while
atop a boar, or by knocking another player down from one. Although less
entertaining than the other modes, it's good practice for beginners
looking to become swine-savvy.
Visually, Ooga Booga has some nice things going for it. The game engine
runs at a virtually rock-solid 60fps, and this keeps things super fast and
smooth. The bright, simple palette makes everything clean and easy to
see. The characters themselves, while a tad unoriginal, are quite funny.
Their animation is nicely done, reflecting the personality of each Kahuna.
The winning poses are also pretty great, and should definitely summon a
smile upon first viewing. Overall, while the graphics don't strive to break
new ground in any area, they get the job done nicely.